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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Business group hopes lessons of San Diego can improve homeless services in Spokane at talk on Tuesday

Hello for Good, a coalition of private businesses coordinated by a former adviser to Mayor Nadine Woodward and a Trump administration HUD official, will hold the first of a planned series of symposiums addressing the causes of homelessness in Spokane on Tuesday.   (Hello for Good website)

A coalition of private businesses formed in an effort to address the causes of homelessness in Spokane will hold a free informational talk Tuesday with leaders from San Diego.

The symposium is intended to be the first of many bringing community leaders from across the country to address issues such as housing, mental health and addiction services and more, said Chris Patterson, who is coordinating the “Hello for Good” effort as an employee of Washington Trust Bank.

Patterson, a former regional administrator in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Trump administration and who later served as an adviser to Mayor Nadine Woodward on homelessness issues, said the group was formed to provide an extra-governmental perspective to addressing the root causes of homelessness and tailor the city’s services to its needs, using advice from other cities as an example.

“We’re not focused on supporting the mayor or the City Council. We don’t work for them, they work for us,” Patterson said.

The event will be held beginning at 8 a.m. at the Davenport Grand Hotel downtown and is scheduled to last until 11 a.m. It will be the first symposium the “Hello for Good” group has held, and brings a former mayor, housing director and nonprofit leader in San Diego to discuss approaches that brought about a 29% decline in unsheltered homeless people on the streets of that city from 2017 to 2019, Patterson said.

“We don’t have to be the smartest people in the room,” Patterson said. “Show me what you’ve done that works.”

Speakers will include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who pushed for more shelters in his city and in the state of California during the recall bid against Gov. Gavin Newsom but also was criticized for reliance on police to clear encampments; Rick Gentry, the former housing commissioner in San Diego who had previous stints across the United States but resigned earlier this year amid ethical concerns about the commission’s purchase of two hotels; and Drew Moser, executive director of the nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation that began by constructing bridge shelters in San Diego and has since branched out to providing other education and services for those living on the streets.

The symposium will allow attendees to ask questions by way of index cards. Patterson said the intention is to learn from the expertise of guest experts, continuing on work the organization began with a recently published report by contractors Berry Consulting, Inc., that called for better collaboration between government and the nonprofit sector, providing additional shelter beds and targeted programs for homeless populations and legislative changes encouraging the building of housing.

Patterson acknowledged that there may be some trepidation by those in the community about certain members of the organization’s steering committee and their past work in the community to address homelessness. Among those members is Larry Stone, a downtown developer who financed a 17-minute video during the 2019 municipal election called “Curing Spokane” that highlighted public safety issues tied to homelessness but was criticized by some for its lack of context. The committee also includes Chud Wendle, who in 2021 formed the Spokane Business & Commercial Property Council in an attempt to get private business interests involved in addressing property crime.

The organization invites everyone to the table to talk, Patterson said, because he and the organization believe current efforts are not enough.

“My answer to people who might criticize it is the door’s always open, jump on in,” he said.